#SeaWorld Signs Up for Public Debate – Yes, You Read That Right.

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Since the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” SeaWorld has tried everything in its power to divert attention away from its shady business operation, which most recently, has included the use of psychoactive drugs on its orcas and the impregnation of ANOTHER female orca before her appropriate breeding age.

Open letters denouncing “Blackfish” were penned, videos from SeaWorld supporters were released, and the entertainment giant even created its own volunteer “Truth Team,” to show the world that SeaWorld isn’t guilty of anything and to protect our “privilege” of “experiencing marine mammals up close in ways that are educational, inspirational and that advance science.”

So, let’s get this straight — we now have a right to take away another’s chance at freedom because we are “privileged” to see them? Debatable, SeaWorld, debatable, along with pretty much everything else the company has said.

Yet, surprisingly, SeaWorld has finally decided to engage in a public discussion even though, at the start of 2014, the company quickly wimped out of a public debate challenge initiated by the team from “Blackfish” and the Oceanic Preservation Society (makers of “The Cove” and the upcoming eco-thriller “6”).

Quietly announced on EventBrite, The Voice of San Diego posted ticketing information for a panel discussion to be held on June 5, 2014 that will be focused on the following question: What does SeaWorld offer San Diego and how do we balance animal rights concerns with the company’s contributions in our region?

This event is most likely an offshoot of the debate surrounding the now postponed decision for San Diego’s “Blackfish bill,” which was introduced by California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) earlier this year.

While it will be great to see SeaWorld finally speaking more directly to the public about its operations, the panel discussion already has the markings of the company’s other shaky PR gimmicks.

First off, the event is not called a debate, but rather a panel, and out of the four panelists, only one is considered “counter” to SeaWorld’s mission. The event page lists the following speakers:

Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute; she was a key consultant for “Blackfish” and likely helped craft the so-called Blackfish bill;Susan Gray Davis, former UC San Diego professor who wrote a book about SeaWorld San Diego and can speak to local contributions;SeaWorld Senior TrainerSeaWorld Veterinarian/ Researcher  

Who the SeaWorld trainer and veterinarian/researcher are remains to be seen, but looks like it’s a case of three against one. If there was any interest for a real public debate concerning marine mammal captivity, then the panel would have been more balanced instead of one-sided (although, it should be noted, that Naomi Rose is a strong voice of support for the anti-captivity movement, yet she is still just one voice from this side).

What’s more, the panel discussion seems like just another attempt to get SeaWorld out of the deep, consuming water that is the “Blackfish Effect” (which has resulted in protests along with a drop in attendance in early 2014), as can be concluded by the panel’s very narrow, SeaWorld-tailored question on what the company offers San Diego. True, the remainder of the question mentions a potential jumping off point for animal rights topics (“how do we balance animal rights concerns with the company’s contributions in our region?”), however it’s main focus is on how SeaWorld benefitsSan Diego — not the welfare of its orcas and trainers, which is where the real debate needs to stem from.

It seems we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens with this panel discussion (hopefully there will be some progress — we’ve been waiting, SeaWorld, c’mon, now!), but in the mean time, tell us what you think with a comment below – do you believe this debate is a good thing or will it be just another one of SeaWorld’s attempts to twist the truth?

Image source: Glen Scarborough/Flickr

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“My photo used to help raise awareness of the ethics behind Civet Cat coffee.” Paul Williams.

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Posted by Paul Williams

‘Cut the Crappacino’ – my photo used to help raise awareness of the ethics behind Civet Cat coffee.

A few years ago I tried the curious ‘cage-free’ blend of Civet cat coffee when I visited a coffee farmer in India. Now one of my civet cat photos is being used as part of a campaign against the booming industry of farmed civet cat coffee in South East Asia “Cut the Crappucino”

Civet coffee, or Kopi Luwak as it’s known in Indonesia, is one of the world’s most expensive drinks, selling for up to £70 per cup – you can try some in Selfridges. It’s made from coffee beans, which have been partially digested by Civet cats, small mammals that look like a cross between a weasel and a cat. Their digestive enzymes denature the beans and alter the final taste, which according to coffee experts, gives the coffee its uniquely smooth and rich flavour. But is it cruel or unethical?

The Ethical Blend: In a small village close to Bangalore in South India I met Ganesh, a coffee farmer, locally famous for his special brew. Every December his estate is visited by a hoard of tiny palm civets who come for the succulent red coffee fruits, selectively picking the ripest and sweetest, wolfing them down during the night. While the damage is minimal many crop producers might go to the extreme to protect their livelihood from such an invasion, yet for Ganesh, a keen Wildlife watcher, it’s actually a treat. Since reading an article in National Geographic about the production of Kopi Luwak in Korea he has simply just let the Civets get on with their nocturnal gorging. On occasion he even catches them in the act and just keeps his distance observing them as they stand on their hind legs to reach the best fruit. ‘It’s only the fruity outer layer that their interested in’ He goes on to tell me how the two coffee beans at the core of each fruit are concentrated, cleaned and processed as they pass through the civets digestive tract, eventually being dumped – usually under a coffee plant for Ganesh to find in the morning. ‘All I have to do is go around popping the poop into a basket for roasting later.’ he says with a grin.

See on www.thedodo.com

High School Students Protest Prom At #SeaWorld Demand Freedom For Orcas.

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One San Diego student is gaining ground in his campaign to move Mt. Carmel High School’s prom from SeaWorld by launching a petition that has already gained over 600 signatures. Zach Affolter set up the petition after he noticed friends’ were upset about the location of their prom.

 “They were just like, ‘Hey, our prom’s at SeaWorld … I’m still going to go but I really don’t feel good about going,'” said Affolter who attends a nearby high school.

While he told local 10News that he understands it may be too late for the school to move the prom — the event is scheduled for May 31 — he has been gaining lots of attention and traction for the cause to boycott the marine parks. The petition is also aimed at the district’s middle and elementary schools, which still take classes on field trips to SeaWorld.

The petition reads:

Not only are these activities promoting animal abuse and cruelty, instead of the ever-important values of conservation and environmentalism, but it also surrounds students in the middle of a controversy. Never should students feel the need of removing themselves from an activity or feel guilt when participating.

Affolter notes that his goal is not to close SeaWorld — but for the company to end its captive orca breeding program and release its whales to sea pens.

See on www.thedodo.com

Japanese ships killing whales ‘inside sanctuary’

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Aerial footage released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society appears to show the bloodied remains of three minke whales.

By Hannah Strange

3:31AM GMT 06 Jan 2014

Three minke whales lie on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru in the Southern Ocean (Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd/Tim Watters)

Activists have captured rare images of protected whales slaughtered by a Japanese fleet in what is said to be an internationally recognised ocean sanctuary, offering a stark insight into Japan’s secretive but much-criticised whaling practices.

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